by Aaron Warner
Upon requesting the recent D.E.I. training required by the Town of Hartford for its administrative staff I was able to look through the thirty-two slides from which the training is derived. Being a small business owner who has never sat through a D.E.I. training I was curious to see what it constitutes. What I found was a series of moral and ethical suggestions and teachings coupled with guidance on how to embrace the new cultural phenomena of identity politics being pushed by leftist ideologues. Rather than foster a less hostile environment and reduce conflict this document looks like a recipe for creating hostile, harassing and conflict laden work places for those wishing to create them under the guise of “protected classes”.
The training comes from the Paul Frank and Collins law firm in Burlington, Vermont and specifically administered from the desk of Kerin Stockpole who is the SPHR Director specializing in employment and labor law. Stockpole boasts a rather lengthy pedigree of teaching and practice including multiple awards as a “super lawyer”. Her education began at Wheaton College, where she obtained a B.A. (cum laude) in History followed by a law degree (cum laude) from Washington College of Law. She has practiced in Maryland (inactive) and Washington D.C. (inactive) while currently holding license to practice in Chittenden County and the U.S. District Court of Vermont.
Among her extracurricular activities are non-profit support and involvement in a variety of organizations: Mater Christi School, Ethan Allen Homestead Trust, The Stern Center for Language and Learning, Visiting Nurses Association of Chittenden and Grand Isle Counties, Mercy Connections, and Wake Robin Corporation. In all it seems she is dedicated to helping people with human relations and how to handle conflict.
Which is why as I read through the D.E.I. presentation sent in her name to the Town of Hartford I couldn’t help but notice the contents seemed rife with codifying workplace situations built to either create conflict or the subtext for low grade workplace harassment. In it are scenarios that will foster a workplace environment ultimately marginalizing those who don’t care to be told how they must think or what they must say. When certain staff members fall into one of the new “protected” categories at odds with another “protected” category one of them will be subject to losing their rights at the expense of the other’s. Looking at the language it seems pretty obvious which direction it is headed.
For starters the title of the presentation is “Creating A Respectful and Inclusive Work Environment”. The key word here is “inclusive” which is Orwellian newspeak for LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, etc.) & BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Color). This operates under the assumption these group identities were somehow mistreated in the town of Hartford, likely the most woke, inclusive and tolerant town in Vermont next to Burlington, which is absurd. So far there is scant evidence of it being a problem in the state of Vermont let alone the town of Hartford.
The first few slides hone in on intention, action and impact. Trainees are encouraged to question their motives with the underlying assumption their motives are implicitly biased and impure when it comes to the new protected groups. Why else ask the questions? The subsequent slides indicate questioning one’s motives will lead to better hiring practices, retaining qualified employees, enhance your reputation in the community and even “doing the right thing” ala Spike Lee. Of course there is no causal link – this is all theory and optics.
Slide five asks “What does it take?” answered by open-ended and vague terms like “commitment to a journey” “persistence” and “a sense of history”. Because when you’re testing waste water, erecting bridges or plowing icy roads, your historical perspective and willingness to journey on behalf of other people groups is critical to your success.
Slide six is the now memetic wonder of three people on boxes looking over fence at a game where two can see but the shorter person can’t. This again is a patently false reality painted to make it seem like our institutions and infrastructure are inherently inconsiderate of minorities (in this case a small person), so we need to think outside of the box and make systemic changes to shore up this shortcoming (no pun intended). Of course it’s an overly simplistic cartoon that uses unrealistic comparisons to create a straw-man problem that doesn’t exist at scale in the Town of Hartford. There is no epidemic of short people needing a leg up. The caption (Remember: Fair Does Not Always Mean Same) is pandering even to a middle school audience let alone adults.
Slide seven uses an M.C. Escher type drawing that makes a set of stairs look like seven to one person and five to another while telling us “History and Perspective Matter”. Again, the slide uses and optical illusion to make about concrete realities. We’re talking about government jobs remember, not philosophy of perspectives. It matters little what a person’s historical opportunities for advancement were in their neighborhood growing up when we’re talking about load bearing specs for a bridge or waste water treatment.
Slide 8 is the most blatantly unnecessary as it incorporates the 1619-1860s – when nobody alive existed. These are for history class not workplace training. It also includes “property rights” “sundown/segregation laws” “Korematsu” and “Obergefell v. Hodges”. It’s almost as if Mrs./Ms. Stockpole has regurgitated her senior project as a human resources training. Again, who is painted street lines or plowing snow needed to consider the marriage equality act – both are irrelevant to the job.
The next few slides are all about “valuing diversity,” as if adults need to be reminded of this. Mind you, “diversity” is a Marxist dog-whistle for “more Marxists of color” not actual diversity. If you are an adult and need to be told this basic concept you are not fit for government work. Go back to third grade and pay attention this time. Of course Stockpole needs to include an exhaustive list on “What Makes Us Diverse” such as: age, national origin, race, sexual orientation, religion, disability, gender…languages used…philosophical perspective, family situation…etc.” This list would matter if the Town of Hartford were training poorly educated people who practiced the Socratic method in another language. I’ll wait while we find them.
As if the condescending and elementary tone of the training wasn’t bad enough slide eleven “Valuing Diversity” begins with the admonishment “do your homework before you engage”. Is this school or are we at work? How exactly is one to do their homework before engaging? Do you suggest we spy on them on social media? I imagine the United Nations offers some special after school-work training to help, but I digress. The slide also tells you “Language matters. Your example matters.” This is only news to adolescents. If you are a functioning adult needing this type of training you have fallen entirely off the bell curve.
Slide twelve is so bad I have to call into question the author’s credentials. It’s title? “Federal Prohibits Discriminate Based On:” A nationally recognized super lawyer wrote this? Seriously? Never mind. It lays out in hierarchical fashion the categories:
- Race, Color, National Origin (sic)
- Sex (including sexual orientation, gender identity and being transgendered)
- Pregnancy and Religion
Here we see the tension ultimately mounting as these categories will no doubt collide, especially if we start trying to enforce compulsory speech, which I’ll get into in part 2 of this D.E.I. analysis.
The author is a VDC columnist and Upper Valley regional reporter. He lives in Hartford, VT where he owns two award-winning small businesses. He is a graduate of Leadership Upper Valley class of 2010.